The rot continues at the University of the South Pacific. As we went to print, news broke that the USP’s supreme body, the USP Council has established a team to investigate its vice chancellor and president Professor Pal Ahluwalia.
The formation of the investigative team was announced in a letter Pro Chancellor and chair of USP Council Winston Thompson sent to Council members dated March 16 in which he wrote:
"I write to advise the Council that following legal advice and in accordance with the provisions of the ordinance to govern the discipline of the vice chancellor, and in consultation with the deputy pro vice chancellor, I have appointed a subcommittee to investigate allegations of material misconduct against vice chancellor and president Professor Pal Ahluwalia."
The committee appointed by Thompson consists of three Fijians, Mahmood Khan (chair), Fay Yee and Semi Tukana. The fourth member is Petunia Tupou, a Tongan lawyer.
Thompson has declined to comment to Islands Business on the letter he had sent to members of the USP Council.
"I would neither confirm nor deny," was all he said.
The Pro-Chancellor’s letter does not specify what allegations he is making against Professor Ahluwalia, but another document he authored and sighted by Islands Business from August 2019 criticises the new Vice Chancellor for his attitude towards the induction process prepared for him, perceived disrespect for decisions made by the USP Council , public criticism of the university, “irrational decision making”, undermining of USP’s strategic plan and alleges that “staff morale plummeted and some important senior managers were sidelined from the beginning.” Thompson also refers to the decline in income suffered by the university as the result of controversy there.
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There was no joy for Taiwan in September, as it lost the support of two of its Pacific island supporters in quick succession in Solomon Islands and Kiribati. The Solomons, under the leadership of newly-elected Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, had telegraphed its intentions, and so its decision was no surprise, although it was subject to accusations that due process, and in particular the approval of the Foreign Relations Committee, had been bypassed.
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There’s less than a month to go until the results of the independent investigation into allegations of abuse and mismanagement at the University of the South Pacific are to be delivered. The details of the Terms of Reference for the investigation have not been made public, and it is unclear whether staff and students will have a chance to make submissions. Meanwhile USP students across the region are about to start studying for their second trimester exams. The university’s leadership and member states owe it to them to ensure the that the investigation is robust, free of political interference and transparent.
FOR someone who is still in the honeymoon period, James Marape is saying the right things. His words match his actions, so far.
Marape has said that he has accepted office as independent Papua New Guinea’s 8th Prime Minister with humility. The first morning he woke as Prime Minister, Marape posted on his official Facebook page:
“It is a privilege to be the chief servant of this nation of a thousand tribes. I don’t promise I will be answer to all of our nation’s problems, but I do promise I will give my very best effort to make a difference!”